Attention has understandably focussed on Davis and Johnson but disruption lower down the system is causing problemsby Gavin Freeguard / July 26, 2018 / Leave a comment
Michael Fallon falling “below the high standards” of behaviour expected. Priti Patel’s plane home. Damian Green’s ministerial code maelstrom. Amber Rudd’s Windrush nightmare. David Davis and Boris Johnson’s Brexit double exit—the first resignation of two cabinet ministers inside 24 hours since 1982.
All told, we are witnessing the highest rate of cabinet resignations outside of reshuffles since the last 13 months of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership.
These will be the resignations that persist in people’s memories—big beasts in substantial scandals or ideological exits. Will people remember the junior ministerial resignations of recent weeks? Philip Lee, the junior justice minister who became the first to quit over Brexit; Greg Hands, who left the Department for International Trade over Heathrow; Steve Baker (Exiting the EU) and Guto Bebb (Defence), both over Brexit but from different sides of the divide; and Andrew Griffiths (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), though as the subject of a sordid Sunday newspaper splash, he stands a better chance of infamy. This is to say nothing of the various parliamentary private secretaries, less the lowest rung on the ministerial ladder than the ground immediately beneath it.
More than three-quarters of all ministerial posts are filled by people new to the job since the 2017 general election, just over a year ago, and the reshuffling has been greater at junior levels. But why should we care as much—or indeed, at all—about these junior ministers, the reshuffling of what one former MP referred to as Under-Secretaries of State for Paperclips and Statues? We should care because junior ministers matter, and this is where much government business gets done.
While Secretaries of State might crowd round the cabinet table, set their department’s direction and be its public face, junior ministers do much of the heavy lifting. In parliament, they are the ones to answer adjournment debates and parliamentary questions and pilot bills through to Royal Assent. In their departments, they are the ones who deal with correspondence, drive policies through and chase their progress and keep stakeholders on board. It may be “unglamorous” and “an awful lot of the routine stuff, the nuts and bolts,” as former minister Bob Neill put it, but they are the ones that get things done.
“More than three-quarters of all ministerial posts are filled by people…